Twin Town Guitars Is a Place for Music, Community and Education

The streets of Minneapolis buzz to the beat of music. From the acoustic concerts at farmers markets around town to the black and white stars of First Avenue. At the center of this musical hub is Twin Town Guitars, a school of music and retail shop in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood, and a staple in the Minneapolis community for 20 years.
 
Andrew Bell, co-owner and founder of Twin Town, fell in love with music at a young age—borrowing his older sister’s records or jamming out to the radio. “I grew up in the 80s and there was so much cool music from so many directions,” he says. Andrew’s parents started him on the piano at age 8 or 9 but “after piano it was all about the guitar and it has never changed,” he says. It was this love of music that inspired Andrew to open Twin Town. “I like music so much that I wanted to be around it as much as I possibly could,” he says. With the help of his wife, co-owner and director of music education Carrie Bell, the shop inspires others in the community to foster a love of music—from the 60-year-old student taking up guitar for the first time, to the five-year-old banging on a set of drums in the show room, face lit up in a gleeful smile.
 
Carrie discovered her love of music almost by accident. “I started playing back in fifth grade,” she says. “Clarinet—really because it was the only instrument left. I had a really great teacher that introduced me to big band and I continued to play clarinet through college.” Just as she was introduced to a love of music, Carrie hopes to pass it on through the music program at Twin Town and through a vibrant presence in the Minneapolis community. “The biggest thing is the attention to what students look for in a lesson,” Carrie says of the music program. “If they’re in for a private lesson, we want to listen to those student’s needs. Some students want to come in and just learn a song for their sister’s wedding, some students come in and really want to focus on [music] theory.” And Twin Town has 25 teachers on staff that cover lessons in almost every instrument, including woodwinds, harmonica, brass, drums and strings.

20 years is a long time to be a thriving independent shop, and one reason for Twin town’s staying power is the deep roots they have planted in the community. Carrie and Andrew live in Minneapolis, their kids go to school in the area and they share a powerful love for the city. The couple organizes a battle of the bands at Washburn and Justice Page schools and they are working toward providing instruments for music programs at Minneapolis Public Schools . “We also have participated in tons of local farmer’s markets to give kids a chance to try instruments,” Carrie says.

Mark Wade is a rock and roll musician and assistant director of music education at Twin Town. Wade began teaching “before they even had an in-house music program,” he says. “They had a list of teachers and you would go to the student’s house—this was 2005 maybe.” In 2007, after Twin Town expanded to include music rooms, Wade began to teach in-house. Wade finds inspiration in watching his students’ progress, in seeing their excitement for music grow. “I feel really lucky that people let me lead them through a musical journey,” he says. “It’s really cool to see adults that have always wanted to pick up an instrument—I have people in their 60s coming into music lessons for the first time.”
 
As important as education is at Twin Town, the retail side of the business shines just as bright. Local rock and roll musician Laura Bennett works in the drums section of the store. Her love for Twin Town is apparent as she describes the smell of the shop—a thick incense of paper and wood and “the oil used to wipe down a fret board.” Bennett got her start playing in a marching band in the small Wisconsin town where she grew up. “In 5th grade, which was sometime in the 80s, I had chosen drums because I was always jealous of the boys who played drums,” she says. In 2001, Bennett moved to Minneapolis to pursue a music career and she was in awe of the local music scene. She spent many nights attending shows at First Avenue and many days going to Twin Town with friends. “I loved going in there,” Bennett says of the music store. “I just felt inspired.” So when an opening came up to work at Twin Town, Bennett went for it. The longtime musician highlights the friendly atmosphere at Twin Town, pulling from her own experience as a customer and now as part of the staff. “We really try to treat others how we want to be treated,” she says.

“It can be intimidating to walk into a music shop, but music really is the best medicine.” Bennett is now a force in the local music community, she has played shows at First Avenue and even graced the cover of the City Pages. She now plays in a band called Trash Street and she shares her musical knowledge with those who walk through the doors of Twin Town—from curious to well established musicians. Bennett also mentions the importance of Twin Town’s presence as an independent shop in the ever-changing community of Minneapolis. When asked what makes the shop important to the community Bennett replies, “Staying original—an old school, ma and pa, stand up for small business shop.”   

As the Minneapolis community ebbs and flows with change, Twin Town has held fast to its position as a corner music store. A place where possibilities and inspiration flow free.

A place where anyone can be a musician.